News Roundup: Government fear of Kaspersky spreads to the UK
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News Roundup: Government fear of Kaspersky spreads to the UK

A roundup of the week’s technology news including machines coding machines, Huge Dirty Cow, and the Ocean of Things.

 

Kaspersky can’t catch a break

After the US Government announced it was purging Kaspersky technology from its systems over spying fears, the company is to shut down its Washington DC office.

But bad news often follows bad news and its seems the UK is taking a similar anti-Kaspersky stance. This week saw National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) head Ciaran Martin warn government departments not to use the Russian AV provider.

“The NCSC advises that Russia is a highly capable cyber threat actor which uses cyber as a tool of statecraft,” he wrote in a letter to civil servants. “This includes espionage, disruption and influence operations. Russia has the intent to target UK central government and the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

“We advise that where it is assessed that access to the information by the Russian state would be a risk to national security, a Russia-based AV company should not be chosen.”

Eugene Kaspersky was keen to stress, however, that the letter was not a ban, and he is in touch with the NCSC.

The announcement also saw Barclays bank stop offering free Kaspersky anti-virus products to new customers “as a precaution”. A Kaspersky spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” in the decision.

In related news, the man accused of taking NSA malware home and then letting it get sucked up by Kaspersky has pleaded guilty. 67-year-old Nghia Hoang Pho of Maryland pleaded guilty to ‘willful retention of national defense information’ after taking NSA malware home during his time as a Tailored Access Operations (TAO) developer. Pho faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

 

Coding 2040

Is there a future in coding? Low-code development is all the rage, Google’s AutoML is developing Machine Learning algorithms more efficiently than any human can, and software development companies are looking at ways to make coding quicker and more automated.

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory this week released a paper which claims machines, not humans, will write most of their own code by 2040.

“The major technologies that will drive the creation and adoption of Machine Generated Code (MGC) already exist, either at research institutions or in the marketplace,” reads the paper.  “Present programming trends and research directions suggest that by 2040… MGC may be as common as artificial intelligence in devices today or self- driving cars in the next couple of years.”

 

Bad MPs

Politicians should be more careful what they Tweet. Just look at John McCain.

This week UK MP Nadine Dorries claimed people shouldn’t judge Damian Green (a fellow MP found to have porn on his office computer) as anyone could have put it there.

“My staff log onto my computer on my desk with my login everyday [sic],” she tweeted. “Including interns on exchange programmes. For the officer on BBC News just now to claim that the computer on Greens [sic] desk was accessed and therefore it was Green is utterly preposterous !!"

She later added; “All my staff have my login details. A frequent shout when I manage to sit at my desk myself is, 'what is the password?”

Another MP, Nick Boles, admitted he too does this. Aside from the fact this is very bad security practice – and Dorries was told so in no uncertain terms by various security pros – The House of Commons Handbook expressly forbids MPs from sharing passwords.

 

In other security news:

  • Germany’s Interior Secretary Thomas de Maizière wants backdoors for every internet-connected device.
  • GCHQ divulged two major Windows Defender vulnerabilities.
  • The patch issue to stop the Dirty Cow vulnerability has its own flaw, dubbed Huge Dirty Cow.
  • Samsung has filed a patent for biometrics that hide a password in your palm pattern.

It wouldn’t be right if we had a week without any major security SNAFUs, and this week we’ve had two. Virtual keyboard maker Ai.Type leaked the personal information of 31 million people, while bitcoin marketplace NiceHash has had 4,700 Bitcoins (value at the time was over $63 million) stolen by hackers.

 

M&A

Samsung’s acquisition of Harman has gone so well it wants to do some more big M&A deals in the near future, specifically in the automotive, digital health and industrial automation markets, according to Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn.

Apple has acquired podcast search startup Pop Up Archive, Cisco has snapped up Cmpute.io, Line is buying mobile ad tech company Five, Intuit has snapped up TSheets, and Zeta Global has got its hands on Disqus.

 

Open Source

Oracle has gone Open Source crazy. The big red giant this week released a host of new free tools: the WebLogic Monitoring Exporter exposes WebLogic Server metrics that can be read and collected by monitoring tools such as Prometheus, and displayed in Grafana; the Jenkins Plugin for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure allows you to connected the automation server software to OCI; there also a Mobile Authentication Plugin for Apache Cordova, the Fn Installer for Kubernetes, and Global Multi-Cluster Management for Kubernetes.

Elsewhere, Microsoft also went Kubernetes crazy and released both Virtual Kubelet (a Kubernetes kubelet implementation) and Kashti (a reporting dashboard web interface for Kubernetes designed to be used with its other tools Helm, Draft, and Brigade).

Open.ai this week released Blocksparse; highly-optimised GPU kernels designed to speed neural networks.

 

Facebook vs everyone else

Facebook is continuing its efforts to copy every social app it can as well as break itself down into as many different apps on your phone as possible. Instagram is reportedly testing Twitter-like ‘regram’ buttons as well a standalone messenger app. Meanwhile Facebook itself has debuted a Messenger app for kids in order to get them hooked quicker and has launched a feature called Did You Know, which is like a benign and uninteresting Whisper or Secret.

 

Careful what you put in your Ts&Cs

We all know most people don’t read the terms and conditions of the stuff they buy. But the people that do take notice usually aren’t afraid to flag stuff they don’t like. Case in point: ADT Security, which provides all manner of home security tech, changed its terms to say that thou “Will not disparage ADT, ADT's products or services, or any of ADT's affiliates or their products or services”.

ADT was called out on this straight away, and quickly capitulated. The company replied to many an angry tweet with an apology and an image confirming that have retracted that clause from its terms.

 

Ocean of Things (OoT)

2017 saw Connect write about driverless boats and the current communication and information network (or lack thereof) on the seven seas. But DARPA to the rescue! The cutting-edge research agency has launched a new Ocean of Things program designed to create a distributed sensor network.

 

Bitcoin Billionaires

Bitcoin this week surpassed not only the $12,000 barrier for the first time this week, but everything up to and including $17,000. The premier cryptocurrency has jumped nearly $2,000 in a day, and then promptly dropped back down to a little under $16,000.

As a result of the week’s gains the Winklevoss twins – who bought $11 million worth of the cryptocurrency in 2013 with money extracted from Facebook – are thought to be the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires [and that story broke when its value hit $11,000]. Wonder how many pizzas they’ll buy with it?

Elsewhere, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced a new oil-backed national virtual currency to remedy the fact its actual currency is rapidly dropping in value. Sceptics believe the “Petro” will fair about as well as the Bolivar.

 

Drone strikes: not as deadly as first thought

Good news! If a drone hits your plane, it’s less deadly than previously thought! A new study by Assure found that although drone strikes can cause greater structural damage than bird strikes, they’re not as dangerous as previously thought. Don’t go crashing your UAVs into planes though please.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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